Canada’s mad rush to implement Medical Assistance in Dying (MaiD)

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Peter Stockland

Peter Stockland, who has followed the issues related to euthanasia and assisted suicide for many years, published a comment Sunday on the mad rush to implement more (MAiD) euthanasia in Canada. 

Stockland comments on the passing of Bill C-7, the bill that expanded euthanasia. He wrote:

My own sense is that … an enduring legacy of the past 15 months might be a dawning awareness of the correlative radical expansion of Medical Assistance in Dying, a legal euphemism conflating two distinct acts previously criminalized as euthanasia and assisted suicide.

It’s an immense understatement to note that the MAiD-expanding legislation that passed through Parliament in parallel with the eruption and quelling of COVID was overshadowed by the entirely justifiable focus on the pandemic. But the shade on MAiD could conceivably lift when we enter another phase in March 2023 and federal law alters again to permit life-ending injections for mentally ill Canadians.

Stockland refers to the expansion of euthanasia in Canada as a revolution:

We can agree or disagree about MAiD as a measure. We can approve or disapprove of it in principle and practice. But the legislative alterations that occurred within the pandemic penumbra – and those yet to come – represent a revolution in our understanding of what health care is and, more profoundly still, our shared conception of what human life is.

Stockland comments on the revolution to expand euthanasia to people with mental illness.

On February 24th, 2020, I was in the theatre of the National Press Building as Justice Minister David Lametti and Health Minister Patti Hajdu introduced expanded MAiD legislation. At the press conference, I specifically asked Minister Hajdu whether the changes might put mentally ill Canadians at risk. She insisted the government had no intention of making MAiD an option for the mentally ill.

On March 17, 2021, a mushroomed version of the original expansion passed in both the Commons and Senate. In one year – a year of the worst pandemic to strike Canada in more than a century – Canada’s medically assisted dying law had transformed to the point where expert critics said it allowed for individuals – soon to include those with severe psychiatric conditions – to request MAiD in the morning and receive it by evening.

Stockland stresses the “warp speed” at which Canada has expanded its euthanasia law:

Again, whether we agree or disagree with MAiD, a single year to legalize such a wholesale change about the ending of human life signals a country moving away from its past at warp speed and toward…what? In fact, COVID disruptions of Parliament meant the bill died and had to be reintroduced in October. Full-time focus on the legislation was little more than five months – months when the nation was riveted by pandemic lockdown.

And here is where the COVID overlay on the MAiD calendar becomes illustrative. The five-month expansion process came only five years after Canada’s historic legal change to allow medically assisted death. By contrast, the Supreme Court’s 1993 Rodriguez decision upholding prohibition of medically delivered death stood for 22 years before being successfully challenged
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Stockland concludes by stating that parliament expanded the law “far beyond its original intentions,” setting the stage for further expansions of (MAiD) euthanasia.

But the thing is, in the pandemic year just past, with Parliament shut down, Canadians locked down, and our most vulnerable population ravaged by COVID in care homes, we rushed through legislation expanding MAiD availability. We affirmed rejection of the sanctity of life. We extended the 2016 legislation far beyond its original intentions. We ultimately set the stage for it to extend to the mentally ill.

That conflation foreshadows the virtual impossibility of pivoting out of COVID and back to the Canada we once knew
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Editor’s note Peter Stockland is Senior Writer with Cardus, and Editor of Convivium. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.